Friday, September 25, 2009

More on First Aid

At my age and state of decay, a decent first aid kit is really not an option, but a necessity. Furthermore, if you are going out on the trail, as any old Scout will tell you, a first aid kit of some sort is an absolute must. You cannot get the most out of the outdoors if you spend all your time concerned about how you are going to preserve yourself, so a first aid kit really contributes to your appreciation of the country!

As I mentioned some months ago, I have been shopping for a first aid kit. I am looking, of course, for one that will not take up too much room in or contribute too much weight to my letterboxing kit. I have found some great products on line and in local stores that have really nice small cases, but do not offer what I am looking for in a kit, so I decided that it was time to go back to my Scouting roots and make my own.

One of the first pages that I stumbled upon when searching for personal first aid kit advice was on the Vermillion County, Illinois page. It is aimed specifically at Search and Rescue volunteers, and it has some fantastic pointers, and they have much of what I am looking for in a first aid kit: they are very compact and yet versatile. If you are interested, take a look at the site here. I am thinking of putting three or four of these together so I can have one in each car, one for the kit and one for long walks in the country.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Schwinn Bike Letterbox

When I was a kid I had a lime-green Schwinn. My parents took me to Bob's Bikes in Fair Oaks and we perused every bike in the store until we lit on the green cruiser. It was a beauty, and I loved it. I crashed it often enough that it eventually ended up with an off-plumb frame, and it was retired. I do not know what ever happened to that old bike, but I have never had another quite like it.

So the Schwinn Bike Letterbox in Folsom started off with several points in its favor. It is a beautiful walk along the American River, but if I had given it even a little thought I might have chosen a slightly cooler day for the hike. It was a long hike in the 91° weather, but I had a quart of icy cold water in my Nalgene and a good straw hat on my head, so I was ready to go. I really appreciated my trusty chestnut staff today. There is a delightful nineteenth century ruin on this hike, which makes it all the more delightful, and the instructions are simple and clear, so when you find the box, you know you have found it.

It was a lovely afternoon in the country. There is a second box, unrelated to the Schwinn Bike box, that starts on the same path. I think that will be the next on the Wandering Walkers agenda!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Atlas Quest vs. LbNA

In the minds of many letterboxers there appears to be a tacit rivalry between the Atlas Quest and Letterboxing North America (LbNA) websites. My first introduction to letterboxing was via the LbNA site, and it has been my go-to source for letterboxes ever since. Atlas Quest, I thought, was a secondary information repository that some letterboxers preferred to put their information into, and they invariably linked the information through LbNA.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

Atlas Quest has a wealth of letterboxes that are not listed on the LbNA site! How was I to know? Now, whenever I am planning an excursion, both sites are definite stops before the trip.

Atlas Quest is a more modern site with a lot more bells and whistles than the rather old-fashioned LbNA site. LbNA, in its austerity, is more in the spirit of the sport itself, but that is not an issue for me. I have a sentimental fondness of LbNA, but my new re-discovery of Atlas Quest has kindled a desire to find all the local letterboxes!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Betting My Bumbershoot

In the beautiful northern end of the Sacramento Valley we are still experiencing triple-digit weather and numerous bright and sunny days. A bit warm for ideal letterboxing, to be sure, but what is ideal letterboxing weather? Whilst it is true that 70° F with scattered clouds might be idyllic, a bit of heat will certainly not take the joy out of it, so long as we stay hydrated and wear our sun block.

That said, it is the second week of August, and the industrious inner Scout has become concerned about the rain that will be upon us in forthcoming months. As a result, I have decided to add a really good umbrella to the letterboxing kit.

I have always wanted a whangee crooked Briggs umbrella! It is a gentleman's umbrella that may be carried with any garb short of dinner clothes, yet it is sportier than some more formally gripped umbrellas. If you opt for a Fox model instead of the classic Briggs, you may get it built on a heavy stick that is suitable for supporting a gentleman's weight. If you go that direction, however, you will lose the elegantly slim line of the folded umbrella, and it becomes less suitable for dress. And, because of the ever increasing price of whangee bamboo, the whole thing will cost you a great deal of money.

No, that is not the direction that I want to go for an ideal letterboxing instrument. I do want something that may be used as a hiking staff to steady myself on a muddying trail, and something that will protect my darling wife from the wet as well as me.

Sticks Etc. carries just the thing, I think. They carry a variety of Seat Stick Umbrellas – these offer the weary letterboxer a place to sit for a few minutes whilst puzzling out a clue or while swapping stamps. The canopy size varies, but even in the smallest size is generous. You may select from somber solid colors to subdued multi-colored to full rainbow multi-colored options.

While these umbrellas are not as pricy as the Briggs or Fox whangee discussed above, these are not cheap umbrellas either. They run from £75 to £105 (about $124 to $173 US at today's conversion rate), depending on the size, and if you want a rubber ferrule for the tip, it will cost you another £3.50. From my perspective, it is an investment well worth making, and it will last you many years in the field. And if you get the traditional multi-colored model, you will look like Number 2 out for a stroll in The Village.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Rubber Stamp Carving

For me, the most challenging aspect of letterboxing is the carving of creative and beautiful rubber stamps. My wife, puppy and I use unusual factory made stamps still, and, so far, have been negligent in our duties as devoted letterboxers to carve our own.

I have gotten bits of information from various people, but nothing conclusive. Until now.

On line I stumbled upon a rather eclectic personal web page for a gentleman named Kirby Palm. On this page he has devoted a huge subsection to very practical and well considered advice on how to go about carving rubber stamps! Kirby is a fellow letterboxer, and he has addressed the art of stamp carving to a great extent from the perspective of the letterboxer. He covers hardware, materials, images, how to make a stamp blank, transferring the image to the blank, labeling the stamp and sundry related topics. It is a brilliant contribution to the topic, and I am extremely pleased to find his page!

You will find Kirby's advice and insights into rubber stamp carving here: Rubber Stamp Carving Tips. For Kirby's insights into other topics from bicycling to Jaguars to how to buy a garbage disposal, check out his Home Page!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Virtual Experience

What I really like about letterboxing is its simplicity. I grant you, it has been made possible by the existence of the Internet, but once you get your clues, it is just you and your compass and your wits – the highest technology needed has been around since the sixteenth century.

So-called "virtual" letterboxes offend my sensibilities, and I want nothing to do with them.

Until today.

In beautiful Folsom, California I find that I am a prisoner in my house. The mercury is vacillating around 108°, I am broke and out of gasoline (yes, I know that sounds like the whining of a college student, but I am an unemployed 45 year old man!), and, to top it all off, I am suffering from a significant gouty attack. The short form is that I am absolutely stir-crazy, and I want to do a letterbox or several more even than usual. So I go over to Letterboxing North America to contemplate the sundry boxes that I cannot do today, and, lo, there the section that I have, up until now, disregarded – the virtual letterboxes.

There are a huge selection here, all seductively named. I pull the first one that catches my fancy up: S Holmes Casebook: The Case of the Lion's Mane. Sadly this one requires that one have a copy of the Casebook of Sherlock Holmes about, which I do not. I put it off for another day.

The second candidate is I Dream of Jeannie – 2. The clues are straightforward and the answers are, with a little cunning, available via the Internet. This is not a hike in the Sierra Nevada, but it is not bad.

I pull up Your Horse, M'Lady which consists of a series of horse-related questions. This is getting fun! I can see where this might be a suitable addiction for those of us who are not able to go aboxing at our every whim.

The rewards here are pictures, akin to what might be rubber stamp. I will have to trim carefully and add to my log book.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

More EBay Criminals

I have complained elsewhere about sellers on EBay who intentionally misrepresent the products that they are selling in order to get the uneducated or uninformed to pay artificially inflated prices for what is, in essence, junk. In my experience, this trend is the most pronounced among disreputable antiques vendors and in individuals who are selling single pieces and who are hoping to hit the lottery by getting some sucker to pay a bundle for a worthless item.

I have seen the most of this when shopping for fountain pens, but, given my passion for compasses, it was bound to show up there also. And, lo and behold, here it is: OLD! Compass LENSATIC Liquid Filled MILITARY. You will notice in the title that they use the terms "old" and "military". Old is a completely relative term. To my daughter, old can be something dating from early last week. This particular compass is currently sold at Wal Mart, but it may still be several years old, so it is hard to argue about that. It is, in fact, a military style compass rather than a military compass, and that is truly misleading in my view. The term "military" should refer to a tool that was actually used by the military or was manufactured under contract for military use, not something that superficially looks like a military tool. This compass is a particularly cheesy replica of a World War II style lensatic compass. Despite its gold color, it is not brass, but rather is pot metal painted gold.

This compass is marked on the lid, "Lensatic Compass Liquid Filled." The genuine article is labeled, "Corps of Engineers U.S. Army" above the sighting wire, and below it would have the manufacturer information. This one is marked "Japan" on the back – the U.S. Military has never used a compass of Japanese manufacture, and particularly not in the course of the Second World War.

This compass is sold by places like Wal Mart to be a cheap, essentially a toy, compass. It is a great tool for kids to learn how to take azimuth readings and to learn to navigate the landscape, compass in hand. It is not something that you would want to be lost with, and, most certainly, it is not an old military compass.

To avoid being duped there are a few things that you should do:

  • Do your homework – Know as much as you can about what you are shopping for before buying antiques off of EBay
  • Deal with reputable vendors – Make use of the ratings system on EBay to leave an honest evaluation of the vendor and to research your vendor's reputation before dealing with them
  • If something seems too good to be true. . . – You know the rest. Do shop for bargains, but if you stumble across a mint condition M-1938 Prismatic Compass selling for $4.99. . . well, you know.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Scream, U Scream, We All Scream for ICE CREAM!

We have not been a-boxing for awhile, so I have had no updates here, I am sad to say. Yesterday, however, my beloved wife agreed to go out with me to spend a gift card that I received from a friend, and, whilst out and about, I coerced her into stopping by an ice cream parlor that has been in Sacramento for many years.

You see, little did my wife realize, this particular ice cream parlor stows a letterbox under the cash register! I brought my pack in and, after we were seated and we got our menus, I asked the waitress about the box. I was prepared to have to interrogate everyone in the staff to get hold of it, but, much to my surprise and pleasure, she knew exactly what I was talking about. She brought it over and we stamped up right before receiving lunch! Jennifer was surprised and pleased with the letterbox and with lunch.

It was not much of a letterboxing adventure, but it was certainly a delicious letterbox!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Butterfly Rest Stop

We found a promising letterbox clue for one located nearby in a beautiful park in Carmichael, California, so we packed up the gear and the Boxhound and off we went to find it! The instructions were quite clear and, on this particular winter's day, the sky was blue and it was gorgeous. We saw deer grazing on the hike, as well as flocks of wild turkeys and other wildlife. It was one of the most beautiful nature hikes I have had opportunity to take in quite some time.

Sadly, once we got to what was certainly the correct location, the letterbox was gone. The little preserve where this particular box was hidden is monitored closely by park rangers, and I suspect that they did not approve of this incursion on their little slice of paradise. This does not change the fact that this was a beautiful walk, and, if you are in the neighborhood, I highly recommend a visit to where the Butterfly Rest Stop used to be!